BLEASS Megalit review: Deep synth power with a shallow learning curve
Extracting the full sonic potential from today’s phenomenally powerful plugin synths can pose a significant challenge… but not if BLEASS can help it.
⊕ Ease of operation masks all inner complexity
⊕ Interface perfectly squares the form-and-function circle
⊕ Modular patching of filters and processors
⊕ Per-oscillator Unison mode
⊕ Extensive modulation options
⊕ Performance controller response curves stored with patches
⊕ Very low resource usage
⊕ Excellent value
⊖ FM operator would benefit from fine tuning and a fixed frequency mode
With a strong reputation for creating super-efficient AUv3 plugins for iOS, French developer BLEASS has recently spread its unique gallic charms into the desktop arena, growing an ever-more inventive and ever-more impressive catalogue of processors and instruments. The launch of Megalit, BLEASS’ most adventurous synth to date, marks something of a milestone for the company – a combination of everything it has learned on its journey so far – so the instrument promises to be something quite special. Let’s see if it is!
What’s on the table?
Megalit follows a tried-and-tested three-oscillator configuration. The first two oscillators are wavetables and are the stars of the show, with a massive collection of 135 different wavetables to choose from. These cover a vast range of possibilities – conventional subtractive-style waveforms, tables containing shifting formant patterns, tables that morph between waveforms and noise, and so much more.
Once a wavetable is loaded you can vary the waveform by adjusting the wavetable position, or by modulating it with one of Megalit’s many modulation sources. But BLEASS has also included a Fold setting that, in simple terms, modifies the pulse width of the wavetable’s waveform. This introduces a second dimension of tonal variability within each wavetable – one that can, again, be modulated for even greater tonal colour and character. The timbral options are practically limitless.
The third oscillator is the same analogue-style unit found in BLEASS Alpha and BLEASS Monolit. This produces all of the conventional subtractive waveforms – square, saw, triangle, etc. – and so is more immediate and predictable than the wavetables.
Sound generation is topped off with a dedicated noise generator. This only produces white noise rather than providing a choice noise ‘colour’, but has dedicated hi- and low-pass filters that allow you to modify the noise’s character. While this isn’t quite the same as using different colours of noise (true pink noise is not simply an EQ’d version of white noise, for example), the difference doesn’t matter in any practical way and, if anything, the filter provides greater tonal scope than would a choice of noise colours.
The outputs from the oscillator section feed to the Drive/Filters stage. This features a waveshaper, a bit crusher, and both low- and high-pass filters with a dedicated filter envelope. To be sure, this arrangement delivers a lot of sound-sculpting power when applied to the mixed oscillator signal, but doing so is only one of three options: the processors can also be applied on a per-oscillator basis or on a per-pair-of-oscillators basis (i.e Osc 1&2 in one pair, Osc3 & Noise in the other).
So, for example, you can apply waveshaping and both filters to the output of Oscillator 1, while routing Oscillator 2 through the bit-crusher and high-pass filter, and Oscillator 3 and Noise through only the low-pass filter.
Better still, managing this modularity is a piece of cake. Each processor has a dedicated on/off button for each oscillator (or pair of oscillators, when in that mode), so a click is all it takes to patch the processor into an oscillator’s path. It literally couldn’t be easier!
A similar modularity is available to Megalit’s Unison feature. This creates up to seven additional copies of an oscillator’s output, with the option to apply detuning and stereo adjustment to each copy, as you would expect. But Megalit also allows you to choose which oscillators will be given the Unison treatment, and this opens up sounds and effects that, to create with most other synths, would require multiple plugin instances – one to provide the unisoned sound, and one the non-unisoned sound.
Similarly, Megalit’s FM feature, which provides its own dedicated oscillator to use as an FM operator, can be enabled or disabled individually for each of the main oscillators, opening up yet another deep palette of timbres and options to explore. The frequency ratio between the played note and the FM operator’s frequency can be dialled-in, but the FM feature would be even more powerful with the addition of some fine-tuning capability, and the addition of a fixed frequency mode.
Adding a final polish to the instrument’s rich, crisp and clear tones is an effects section that features a multi-band upward/downward compressor, delay and reverb.
Real-time control & modulation
Megalit has an entire screen dedicated to managing incoming performance controllers – mod wheel, keyboard (tracking), note on, note off, slide, pressure and XY. Each can be mapped to a maximum of two synth parameters, and most can have their response curves adjusted; that curve is stored on a per-patch basis (most synths handle response curves as a global setting). With visual feedback of the incoming controllers, this makes the Performance screen very useful indeed.
For built-in modulation, Megalit provides four LFOs, two envelope generators, and a Motion Sequencer – essentially a step sequencer for creating repeating and rhythmic modulation patterns. With each source able to map to two destinations (including the ability to modulate other modulators), this adds up to a phenomenally rich seam of options for producing timbral variation, rhythmic effects, and ever-evolving soundscapes.
Modern plugin technology empowers synth designers’ imaginations, allowing them to create ever-more elaborate instruments with ever-greater sound design potential. With some such synths, the inherent complexity can weigh heavily on the user’s ability to maximise that potential, but Megalit wears its complexity lightly, presenting all of its myriad options in a simple and accessible way.
This is entirely thanks to BLEASS’ instantly-recognisable design ethos, which blends attractiveness, intuitiveness and visual feedback in a way that perfectly squares the form-and-function circle. As a result, the inherent complexity of Megalit’s deep potential vanishes, and every option is presented front-and-centre, begging to be experimented and played with.
Another BLEASS trademark is resource efficiency, and Megalit doesn’t disappoint here either. Such efficiency is born from BLEASS experience in, and ongoing development of, AUv3 plugins for iOS (Megalit is available for iPhone/iPad too), but is nevertheless very welcome on the desktop as well: For such a powerful synth with such a crisp and clear sound, Megalit’s resource usage is, frankly, ridiculously low – we really don’t know how BLEASS does it!
There are similarly powerful and flexible synths out there, for sure, but none that we’ve seen achieves quite the same perfection of balance between capability, sound quality, efficiency and usability that BLEASS has achieved with Megalit. We love it and think you will too.
- Plugin synthesiser for AU, AAX, VST and AUv3 hosts
- Monophonic and polyphonic operation
- 2x wavetable oscillators with 135 wavetables
- 1x analogue-style oscillator
- Noise generator with dedicated filter
- Modular filters, processors, unison and FM
- Built-in effects (multi-band compressor, delay, reverb)
- Built-in arpeggiator
- Large preset library
- Randomise function tuned to give usable results
- Edit undo and redo
- Desktop: $99 / €99; Intro price $49 / €49 | iPhone/iPad: $29.99 / €29.99; Intro price $14.99 / €14.99 | Intro prices available from 11 November through to end of Black Friday
- Contact BLEASS
- Buy: BLEASS
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